Non-Fiction Picture Book
By Jason Chin
Roaring Brook Press
Jason Chin (another Books of Wonder alum) is an unsurpassed master of presenting non-fiction to picture book fans. His first book in the genre, Redwoods (2009), followed a young boy who discovers a book about the Redwood forest and soon finds himself walking amongst the woody giants. Coral Reefs, published in 2011, is about a young girl in the New York City Public Library who soon finds the library, and the city, transformed into a marine adventure.
Chin carefully researches his subject matter and adeptly translates the information for his intended audience. Coupling his straightforward, informative text with his exquisite and detailed art, he creates compelling and beautiful books—no small feat when dealing with non-fiction, just take a look at some of the other options in your local library.
Island: A Story of the Galapagos reads like a biography of the islands, beginning six million years ago, and is told in five short parts. It began with a volcano that had been growing in the ocean for millions of years. Finally erupting, it created the landmass that would eventually become home to a unique variety of plants and animals; first it would lay barren for many, many years.
The island’s first bit of life arrived on the waves—a mangrove tree seed, from a nearby island, took root and began to grow. From that modest beginning, an ecosystem gradually began to flourish. Sea birds and marine iguanas followed the arrival of vegetation. More and more life forms followed, and over the course of millions of years the animals adapted to their new, and ever-changing environment. Finches on the island evolved to have larger beaks so that they could open larger seeds; seagulls began to hunt at night and evolved to have larger eyes.
All the while the island had been slowly sinking, and after nearly six million years it eventually disappeared under the ocean.
But the other islands of the Galapagos (there’s fifteen now) inherited the descendents of the plants and animals from the sunken land mass. The plants and animals—many of them endemic species, meaning: unique to this specific location—have once again adapted to their new environment. And like the other island, these will eventually sink into the sea as well.
The book’s epilogue shows Charles Darwin’s ship, the HMS Beagle, arriving on the shores of the Galapagos. The last four pages of the book give further information on Charles Darwin, natural selection, endemic species and the amazing islands of the book’s title. Chin’s full color pages highlight the beauty of the island and the sea surrounding it; he utilizes small pieces of panel art throughout which succinctly illustrate the processes of change on the island.
Island: A Story of the Galapagos will be a delight to any child interested in biology, geology or the history of the natural world.
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